Plumbing with PEX — Buildipedia

Plumbing with PEX - Buildipedia

Plumbing with PEX

Are you working with your builder to plan construction for a new home or remodel your existing home? Maybe you are just contemplating your next move. Chances are you have heard about PEX plumbing and have wondered if it’s a suitable option for your residence as compared to the more traditional piping material, copper. Although PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is a relatively newer piping material than copper or even chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), it has a successful history of use in residential applications. PEX has been used in Europe since the 1960s and has experienced significant growth in the United States since its introduction in the 1980s. In a highly regulated industry, PEX piping undergoes extensive testing and certification to meet strict performance requirements to ensure a quality material that provides healthy drinking water.

What Is PEX?

PEX is a light-weight, flexible pipe that is manufactured from 100% virgin high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with cross-linked polymer bonds. Cross-linking polymers produces a thermoset material that is stronger and more durable than a thermoplastic material, such as CPVC. The elasticity of PEX, its ability to expand and contract, provides protection from noisy water hammer resistance and cracking or splitting of freezing water-filled pipes. PEX can withstand high temperatures as well, with a maximum working temperature of 180˚F at 100 psi. Historically speaking, metallic pipe materials experience degradation from corrosion and/or mineral buildup. PEX pipe will not pit or corrode, and it is resistant to mineral buildup, chlorine, and chloramine. PEX pipe that complies with ASTM F876, Standard Specification for Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX) Tubing. and ASTM F877, Standard Specification for Cross-Linked Polyethylene Plastic Hot and Cold Water Distribution Systems. is approved for use in all model plumbing and mechanical codes across the United States and Canada. This allows PEX to be used in a variety of applications around the home. Whether you are replacing existing rigid pipe or installing new supply lines, you should rest assured that PEX is an appropriate choice. PEX can also be used as a supply line in radiant floor heating systems, residential fire suppression systems, or a snow and ice melt system under sidewalks and driveways.

Why Use PEX?

«Market demand and price control were the driving factors in deciding to use PEX as opposed to copper. The fluctuating cost of copper made it difficult to control prices. PEX material costs remained relatively consistent, easing the ability to control cost.» Scott Wenland, Wenland Custom Homes

PEX offers several material advantages, but if that isn’t enough to consider its use in your home, compare the costs. PEX piping systems are relatively easy to install when compared to copper or CPVC, keeping down labor costs. Combine that with low material cost and low operational cost, and you are keeping money in your pocket. Let’s consider the traditional alternative. Since the late 1990s, the price of copper has increased over 700%, to well over $4.00/lb, according to COMEX. The high price of copper has incited an epidemic of copper theft across all 50 states. The U.S. Department of Energy assesses the damage of copper theft on a yearly basis and recently suggested that it costs our nation’s economy approximately $1 billion a year. Copper theft occurs in both vacant, foreclosed homes and new residential builds. Replacing missing supply lines and repairing damaged finishes or structure will not only cost you money but will also increase the time of new construction or will delay closing for the new owner.

Depending on how a PEX system is installed, the installation costs can be kept to a minimum because there are fewer fittings for a plumber to join. PEX pipe is joined by using mechanical connections, a safer and simpler procedure than soldering copper with a blowtorch or applying chemical adhesives to CPVC connections. A comparison of the material costs of various 3/4″ supply line pipe materials at local home improvement stores showed that Type M Copper was $1.50 — $2.00 per linear foot, CPVC was $0.50 — $0.60 per linear foot, and PEX was $0.40 — $0.50 per linear foot; it’s evident that PEX could be a game changer.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a local builder, Scott Wenland of Wenland Custom Homes in Sylvania, Ohio, about PEX piping systems. He was reluctant at first to switch from copper to PEX but has been using PEX piping systems in the custom homes he has built for the last 8 years. Wenland states, «Market demand and price control were the driving factors in deciding to use PEX as opposed to copper. The fluctuating cost of copper made it difficult to control prices. PEX material costs remained relatively consistent, easing the ability to control cost.»

Plumbing with PEX - Buildipedia

PEX piping also offers a homeowner water conservation and energy-efficient savings. The traditional rigid pipe trunk and branch installation can be very inaccessible, so when repair or remodeling is necessary, costs increase due to the necessary removal and replacement of floor, wall, or ceiling finishes. When PEX pipe is installed with home-run supply lines from a manifold, it is more accessible, allowing less invasive activity during repairs or remodeling. A manifold would allow a plumber to shut down water to an affected area instead of an entire house, making things easier for the plumber and reducing your costs. PEX piping is also energy-efficient: the material doesn’t absorb heat like metallic piping, resulting in less water heat loss. If properly designed, a PEX system can conserve water by reducing the time it takes for hot water to reach a fixture.

After a new installation or the end use of PEX, the material can even be recycled. While PEX cannot be melted and reused to form new piping, it can be recycled into an extender for other durable plastic products. PEX piping is ground and pulverized into small particles that are blended with polyethylene and melted into other durable plastic products.

PEX Design and Installation

While PEX is approved for use by all model codes, it is a good idea to check with your local jurisdiction to be sure it is approved for use in your area prior to design and installation. Some jurisdictions use older model codes that may not include PEX piping. According to the Residential PEX Water Supply Plumbing Systems design guide that was prepared in November 2006 by the NAHB Research Center. in conjunction with the Plastics Pipe Institute. the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association. and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing. designing a PEX system should incorporate optimal groupings of fixtures, a centralized distribution point, spaces for bundled runs of PEX pipe, and assemblies of building components that allow for ease of installation.

PEX Installation Configurations

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